Dear Poets: 12 releases for 2018

• 22nd Jan, 18 •




I have never had much faith in people who claim to know the future, but somewhere along the way, somebody wise must have said something like: “We are born, we live through 2017, and then we try something else.” 

That about sums it up. And we better get on it, poets, because we are tired of being tired. I don’t think I need to waste any of my keystrokes detailing the reasons that the year we just emerged from was a slog for so many of us. 

But aside from being a cause for reflection on what has gone wrong over the last 365, a new year gives us the chance to take stock on what went well. Or at least what went... less... un-well? And we weren’t left with nothing. The latter half of that-year-we-need-not-name was potent with the seeds of something new. Something that - hope upon hope - we can work with. Something such as:

In my home province of Ontario, years of organizing and fighting by thousands of hard working people finally led whatever government might be governing to raise the minimum wage to $14/hour as of January 1st, with a promise of $15 and an indexed-to-inflation-forever-rate starting in 2018. That’s not a small thing. Ol’ Tom Horton is being a bit of a dick about the whole ordeal, but that sounds like his problem, and history will hopefully put that where it belongs in due course. It is within all of our powers to remind them that you can’t be a national saint and a bully boss at the same time. 

Above and beyond that, the news media - and society at large it seems - have finally started hearing (and reporting on) the chorus of female voices that have long been telling us about a gendered culture of abuse. There’s a million miles to go on this one, of course, but if the world is a little bit less safe for men who use their power to do harm to women, then that is a step in the right direction.

And speaking of news media: While quality print has continued to suffer, a couple of new publications have popped up this year that have inspired me to keep reading (and writing). The West End Phoenix is a Toronto-focussed print broadsheet that came from the brain of editor in chief, and local musician/journalist Dave Bidini. It is three issues in, and supported by no less than Margaret Atwood, Yann Martel, and Serena Ryder. The Inlet has sprung up down the street in Hamilton, helping cement that city’s status as the place where the cool-kids are. Finally - and this is exciting for me - The Athletic substantially expanded its Canadian coverage as it continues to establish itself as the home for the best unemployed sports writers in the world. Don't you roll your eyes at me. 

On a more personal note, here’s what I did in 2017: Released no music. 

And here’s how I felt in 2017: Mostly terrible. 

So, it felt like time to do something (or everything) different.

And what is the opposite of releasing no music? Releasing all the music. 

So after plenty of thought (and a couple of drinks) I have produced enough courage to pledge to you that I will release some kind of music EVERY MONTH of 2018. And I don’t mean, like, one song every 30 days or some grade-school move like that. I mean a fulsome musical product every single month for 12 months. Maybe some singles, sure, but some EPs, and - if all goes according to this ridiculous plan - some full sized album projects. 

I’m really excited about some of the things coming down the chute. Part of it will be a “clearing the archives” process - releasing things that didn’t-quite-fit on albums. Part of it will be putting a wrap on tunes that have sat half-finished for years. Some of it will be confessional in nature - offering up demos and dares that were never meant to see the light of day. The most exciting part - for me - is the plan to follow through on all of those collaborations I have promised myself into over the years that never quite came to fruition. There will even be some cover songs, and some proper re-mixes of DN tunes in there for you as well. My inbox is a brewing cauldron of collaboration right now, and - fingers crossed - it’ll all get to you soon enough by the digital formats. 

I’ve thought about it a lot, and on this particular day, it just seems to me that spending tens of thousands of dollars on recording a “compact disc” and thousands more on the remarkable people who know how to promote an “album cycle” isn’t an interest of mine - at all - for the time being. Agonizing-on-the-clock is not where my resources need to be. But that doesn’t mean I shouldn’t be communicating in the only way that I know how to communicate. 

So, to kick things off, I’m just dropped “Replacer Replacer,” a collection of mostly-unreleased materials from my last album, Replacement Things. 

It is available on Bandcamp, and, if I have done the internet right, Spotify, iTunes, and all of those other quasi-criminal organizations that charge you money for the privilege of giving none to me. (UPDATE - it is on Spotify. Apple, somehow, takes weeks longer than the others). 

If you’ve been following closely, you’ve heard all of this in one form or another, but not quite like this. 

Hopefulness and Truth is a song that I have tried to record-and-fit onto a few different records. Lot’s of folks tried to argue this version onto Replacement Things, but I couldn’t see it. 

Slow (replacement things mix) - This song was released as a basement-recorded version on 2014's Desire Lines EP, and as a glossy single for my ill-fated participation in a 2015 radio contest. We had Jesse Gander re-mix it to try and make it fit onto Replacement Things, removing some of the synthier elements (to meet our bassist’s demand that the album not contain more than three unique keyboard sounds), but it still didn’t fit. I assure you this version has not been released before. 

Observer (full length) - I write long songs. Observer was absolutely meant to be seven minutes long. I let people with an interest in these sort of things convince me it should be five. I was wrong, I am sorry, and I hope releasing the full version this makes it right. 

Souvenir - I let this one slip out into the public in 2016, but because it came from these sessions, I felt it belonged on this EP. 

And so that’s what we've got. 

What’s happening next month? I have no idea. Not a single clue. About 30 ideas are in a race to the finish line, and your guess is almost literally as good as mine. All suggestions considered. 

And yep, I am still playing (almost) every Sunday downstairs at Wenona Craft Beer Lodge, for the In Basements On Sundays series. Schedule is here. It’s been amazing. For example, last week we brought in a pack of comedians and teamed them up with a pack of songwriters who created new music based on the comedian’s acts. If you enjoy combining cozy with risky, I don’t think you’ll be disappointed. 

I adore you, and I cannot tell a lie. 


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